If you overdose on heroin and die, whose fault is it?

Yours? Your mom's? Obama's?

According to the law in many states, the person who sold you that heroin is to blame. And with narcotic overdose rates on the rise nationwide, drug dealers are now facing harsher penalties than ever for their role in their clients' deaths.

Just this October, Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara made an example of 20-year-old Anthony "Taco" Delosangeles by announcing he'd been arrested for selling a fatal dose of heroin to a 25-year-old man. For this, Delosangeles was charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, and will spend a minimum of 20 years in prison. Meanwhile, on Monday, judge sentenced 23-year-old Terrence Johnson to 21 years behind bars for his role in a 2015 overdose death.

These no-nonsense sentences are hardly isolated — in 20 states, prosecutors are actually allowed to lengthen the minimum sentences for drug dealers whose clients end up dead, and many don't hesitate to flex that authority.

"We are going after those callous dealers who play Russian Roulette with other people's lives," Bharara wrote in an op-ed published in the Daily News. "Every overdose is a potential crime scene and should be treated as such."

And while you can't argue there's not good intention with that kind of crusade, there's a big problem with this model. Multiple problems, actually.

For one, drug dealers aren't who you think they are. The vast majority aren't Tony Montana, holed up in a tropical mansion, flanked by babes, mountains of cash and body guards named "Murder Pete." Nor are they diabolical schemers who intentionally plot the demise of the people they supply.

By and large, drug dealers — or at least the ones police are arresting for distribution — are low-income mortals who earn Pizza Hut-level wages and often deal with the same addiction problems their clients do. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about two thirds of inmates incarcerated for drug trafficking deal with their own substance abuse, meaning they're at just as high a risk of overdose as their clients.

This matters because putting addicts in prison does nothing to curb their habit. In fact, it actually worsens it.

According to DrugFree.org, "Inmates who are untreated or not adequately treated are more likely to start using drugs when they are released from prison, and commit crimes at a higher rate than those who do not abuse drugs." One study even showed that sending substance-abusing prisoners to community-based treatment programs instead of prison both reduces crime and saves billions of dollars.

Just like drug users, dealers need treatment, not incarceration. And if drug users commit more crime, does it not benefit society more to keep them out of prison, regardless if they're users or dealers?

Add to this that the fact that many drug users are afraid to report overdoses — after all, overdose generally indicates criminal activity, and no one wants to go to prison because they did the right thing and reached out for help in an emergency situation.

That fear is actually the basis of what are called "Good Samaritan" laws — regulations that offer some degree of legal protection for people seeking medical help during an overdose. However, the protection offered only protects against some drug crimes, and there are still 18 states that don't even have them. This is probably why, while most heroin users have witnessed at least one overdose themselves, less than 25 percent feel safe calling for help because they fear arrest.

We're not doctors or anything, but that would mean about 75 percent of people in overdose situations have to just sit there and watch it happen.

… Is that the fault of the dealer who dealt the fatal dose? Or of a system that seeks to punish drug users, not help them recover in times of need?

We'll let you guess which answer prosecutors like Preet Bharara go with.

Ironically, his home state of New York is a perfect example of why framing dealers for overdose deaths is a broken approach.

In 1973, New York governor Nelson Rockefeller approved legislation that required coke and heroin dealers to be sucker-punched with a minimum sentence of 15 years to life for trafficking those drugs.

But while fine and dandy in theory, this ended up meaning that nonviolent offenders like drug dealers often served longer terms than domestic abusers, armed robbers, rapists and even murderers. We don't need to remind you of rapist Brock Turner's pathetic three-month prison sentence to illustrate why that doesn't make sense.

And of course, elongating those dealers' sentences did nothing to end New York's drug problems. Less than 10 years after those laws were pushed through, America's largest crack epidemic took place in New York City. Shortly after, it was ravaged by the scourge of HIV spread by intravenous heroin and cocaine users. In fact, even today, New York has one of the highest rates of heroin abuse in the country.

Increased drug use wasn't the only side effect of Rockefeller's drug laws, though. The legislation wrecked total chaos on New York's minority communities, who disproportionately bore the brunt of drug arrests. By 1992, the number of black and Latino inmates incarcerated in New York state prisons had tripled, and the amount of prisoners imprisoned for drug offenses rose from 11 to 35 percent. Even though minorities only accounted for about a third of the state's population at the time, an unbelievable 90 percent of prisoners serving time for drug crimes were people of color.

So, not only do high drug dealer sentences not help anybody; they keep minorities locked in the cycle of the justice system, something that's known to perpetuate both the prison industrial complex and our country's humiliating problem with institutionalized racism.

However, the dual combination of the heroin epidemic and harsh dealer penalties is creating an even deadlier problem for drug users today — the disappearance of heroin dealers from the street is driving users to seek out fentanyl, a substance that is far more dangerous in lower doses than heroin itself … something that makes the risk of overdose even higher.

In other words, less available heroin dealers leads to more accidental drug deaths, which is the very opposite effect than lawmakers intended.

Of course, the same fear of arrest held by heroin users applies to fentanyl users who overdoese as well. That doesn't help.

Neither does the fact that focusing on the apprehension of dealers diverts law enforcement's attention away from drug kingpins who actually control the supply and distribution of narcotics. By wiping out their minutemen on the ground, police are doing what VICE expertly describes are setting their nets to "trawl for minnows, not sharks."

"After all," VICE reports, "It's (usually) not kingpins who get high on their own supply or make the penny ante transactions in which drugs reach their final destination."

By singling out small-time dealers like "Taco" Delosangeles (a Latino man) and Terrence Johnson (a black man), police are committing to perpetuate racial inequalities in the justice system, and blowing it at making a real difference by targeting more high-profile drug lords. At this point, a century of experience with prohibition has taught us that police can't touch the black market by locking up sellers of illegal narcotics — their absence does nothing but create a job opportunity for the next person who feels like their only option for survival is dealing drugs. And, in case you haven't noticed, there are a lot of those people.

And look — none of this is to say that drug dealers are deserving of your sympathy. No one is arguing that we should just ignore the crimes they commit.

But, it has to be said that elongating their sentences for the overdose deaths of their clients does more harm than good. It perpetuates the cycle of addiction. It doesn't reduce drug use rates. It contributes to institutionalized racism. And it distracts police from going after the people who really matter.

What's needed is the type of programs we mentioned above — community-based treatment programs that work to address the root of people's addictions so that there's less of a need for dealers in the first place. When people can learn to control their urges with adaptive measures and ample support, and when law enforcement begins to admit that addiction is a health issue, not a criminal one, then we'll be getting somewhere. 

But until then, keep your hands off our beloved drug dealer, Breezy Pimp. She's got so much to give.